Hundreds of Detainees in Similar Situation, Disappeared into Prisons
"Starred Student" was Blacklisted from Graduate Studies for her Peaceful Women's Rights Activism
(21 January 2010) Iranian judicial and prison authorities have refused to release any information about charges against women's rights activist Somayeh Rashidi (24), who was arrested on 19 December 2009, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported today.
During the past two months, over a thousand people have been detained through the use of a blanket detention order, which is effectively a license for security and intelligence agents to arrest anyone at will. Hundreds of these detainees, similar to Somayeh Rashidi, have disappeared into Iranian prisons without any information available to their families or lawyers.
Based on two brief contacts Somayeh Rashidi has been able to make, it is known she is in solitary confinement in Evin prison. The Campaign calls upon the Iranian Judiciary to divulge the charges against Rashidi and the evidence upon which they are based, and to release her immediately pending an independent investigation of her case.
Prior to her arrest, authorities stormed her house on 14 December 2009 at 6:00 a.m., searched the premises, and confiscated several personal items belonging to her and her roommate, including computers and hand-written notes. At the time, she was served a summons to attend Branch 12 of the Revolutionary Court on 19 December 2009. Upon appearing at the court, she was interrogated and read her charges, arrested, and detained. Over the past few days, her temporary detention orders have been extended and she continues to remain in solitary confinement.
Somayeh Rashidi, who comes from a traditional and religious family, has been active in peaceful women's rights work in NGOs and also at universities, for which she has been persecuted by authorities.
She is a member of the One Million Signatures for Equality Campaign and has been active in the Campaign's Education Committee. Most of her activities were concentrated on domestic violence. She had started a student organization, the Iranian Women's Language Society, around this topic and was providing training in this area. The organization's license was later revoked.
Right to Education Denied to "Starred Students"
Rashidi lost her job at a research institute because of her social activism, and was also a "Starred Student," barred from graduate studies despite her top academic performance. She studied Sociology in college and passed the nationwide university entrance exam with high scores in Women's Studies and Cultural Studies last year.
Although Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flatly denied the existence of "Starred Students" during the 2009 presidential election debates, the phenomenon has affected Iranian students since his first election in 2004. Undergraduate students who engaged in political, cultural or social activities in colleges, notwithstanding their high grades, had to be "selected" by the Ministry of Information. None of the "Starred Students" were able to attend their classes, even after they attended the selection sessions and signed written promises demanded by intelligence authorities. Rashidi had ranked fourth in Women's Studies and twenty-ninth in Cultural Studies in entrance exams. During the months after she became a "Starred Student," she tried all legal avenues to follow up on her case, including meeting with members of parliament. She had meetings with Ministry of Science and Technology authorities as well, but none of these meetings changed her situation.
Other "Starred Students" tried to alleviate their difficulties through establishing the Committee to Defend the Right to Education. Some of those individuals are now in prison, facing unfounded charges. Some of these charges include "relations with Islamic Republic of Iran opposition groups such as the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO)," which have been denied by the defendants and their friends and families.
Several "Starred Students" have told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran over the past few weeks that their political activities were all within Iranian law, but those activities have resulted in their being blacklisted and denied their right to education. Officials refrain from acknowledging these charges.
"Starred Students" recently convicted include Zia Al-din Nabavi, sentenced to 15 years imprisonment and 74 lashes, and Majid Darri, sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Other members of the Committee to Defend the Right to Education currently in detention are: Soroosh Sabet, Mahdiyeh Golroo, Shiva Nazarahari, and Peyman Aref.
Persecution of Women's Rights Activists
Numerous women's rights activists have been targeted for persecution and arrest in the context of the ongoing political turmoil in the Islamic Republic. At this time, women's rights activists Mansoureh Shojaie, Mahin Fahimi, Shiva Nazarahari, Parisa Kakaie, Zohre Tonkaboni, Alieh Eghdamdoust, Bahareh Hedayat, Mahdiyeh Golroo, Shabnam Madadzadeh, and Maryam Zia are all in prison. Journalists Badrossadat Mofidi and Mahsa Hekmat, and political activists Azar Mansouri, Atefeh Nabavi, Shabnam Maddadzad, and Niloufar Hashemi Azar also remain in detention.
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